31 Days in October – “learn”

Day 4 – Five Minute Writing (Catching up!)

St. Basil's in Red Square

St. Basil’s in Red Square

In 1991  I took my first trip to Russia. It was  amazing timing since I went on September 29,  and the Russian dissolution had happened that same month.  The lines were long — so long that people waited for they didn’t know what,  just waited for anything that maybe they could trade for something else…a pair of sox, a loaf of bread.

I  was an exchange teacher  traveling with 25 others all going to Nizhni Tagil — a remote industrial city 1000 miles east of Moscow in western Siberia.  We had been given the names of our hosts and exchanged one letter with them.  Our arrival and stay is a story for another blog,  but the most interesting piece of information that I learned was that we were the first foreigners to visit the city since it was closed during World War II.   There was great preparation for our arrival and stay, our hosts going to great lengths to make us comfortable and keep us well fed during a time when there was a shortage of everything.  They got help from friends,  from the steel plant that was the heart of the city, and from the town.

My hostess was an English teacher who had learned her English from British tapes — had never spoken with an English speaker before, and most importantly, had never heard an American accent before, so when I spoke she was often confused.  I had “tried” to learn Russian during the summer before going, so I had perhaps 20 words and phrases to use, but they failed me.  The first thing I tried to say was that I needed a drink of water, but I must have said something else because she didn’t understand that either.

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